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Candidate Help & Advice

How to Handle Rejection

Rejection is a natural part of life.  Whether by someone we found attractive, our top college pick, or the sports team we didn’t make, we have all, at some point,  felt the pain and disappointment of being rejected.

Nowhere is rejection more common than in job search. And just like every other aspect of the hiring process, rejection too poses an opportunity for you to enhance your brand, even if the benefits are not immediate.

Always stay professional.  Being rejected can raise emotions such as sadness or anger.  It’s important that you remove emotion from your interactions with potential employers and keep things professional. As someone who has had to send way more than his fair share of rejection letters to job seekers, I’ve received a handful of nasty responses with language I wouldn’t include in this blog.  The results?  Those people go on the permanent blacklist – never to be considered for a position again.

Give thanks.  It may seem strange to thank someone after they’ve rejected you – but try and think of it from a different perspective:  this may be your last chance to leave them with a good impression. You never know how close you were to getting the job or if another position would open up.  End things on a positive note.

Ask for feedback.  Don’t go quietly in to the night.  While it may make some people uncomfortable, it doesn’t hurt to ask for feedback on how you could have strengthened your candidacy.  You may find some people will be candid with you and will give you good information to improve for your next interview somewhere else.

Move on.  Don’t wallow in the let down of being rejected.  While easier said than done, it doesn’t help to dwell on the fact that you didn’t get the job.  Keep looking and move on to the next one.  You’ll find the right one eventually!

I’d like to give you a personal example – my current job!  After going through a few rounds of interviews, and feeling very optimistic about my chances, I was rejected for the job.  Of course I was upset about it – but I reached out to my would-be boss and thanked her for her time and wished her luck with her choice.  I also took the opportunity to re-express my interest in the company and to ask for consideration for future relevant positions.  Two weeks later, I got a call which ultimately led to me being offered the position.  I don’t know what effect my post-rejection approach had in me ultimately getting the job, but had I just faded away, or worse, got emotional, I would’ve “burned the bridge” and ruined my chances of ever being considered again.

If you’ve made it through a couple of rounds of interviews, chances are you were pretty close to getting the job.  You never know how your paths may cross again down the line.  Particularly if you’re in a niche industry – chances are you will meet again.  You’re not always going to get the job, but you can always handle rejection like a professional – and enhance your personal brand while you’re at it.


Mike Spinale is a corporate Human Resources leader at a healthcare information technology company located outside of Boston, Massachusetts and is an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University. He has over eight years of experience in HR and management including career counseling, recruitment, staffing, employment branding, and talent management.  Mike has dedicated his HR career to modern views on the field – HR is not about the personnel files – it’s about bringing on the best talent, ensuring they’re in the right seat, and keeping them motivated and growing in their careers. In addition, Mike is the author of the CareerSpin blog where he offers advice and opinion on job search, personal & employment branding, recruiting, and HR. Mike is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Babson College. He is also a board member of the Metro-North Regional Employment Board, a board which sets workforce development policy for Boston’s Metro-North region, and an active member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Northeast Human Resources Association.